Part 3 out of 4
When it was ready Leonardo hung the shield in
a good light against a dark curtain, so that the
painted monster stood out in brilliant contrast, and
looked as if its twisted curling limbs were full of life.
A knock sounded at the door, and Ser Piero's
voice was heard outside asking if the shield was
`Come in,' cried Leonardo, and Ser Piero
He cast one look at the monster hanging there
and then uttered a cry and turned to flee, but
Leonardo caught hold of his cloak and laughingly
told him to look closer.
`If I have really succeeded in frightening thee,'
he said, `I have indeed done all I could desire.'
His father could scarcely believe that it was
nothing but a painting, and he was so proud of the
work that he would not part with it, but gave the
peasant of Vinci another shield instead.
Leonardo then began a drawing for a curtain
which was to be woven in silk and gold and given
as a present from the Florentines to the King of
Portugal, and he also began a large picture of the
Adoration of the Shepherds which was never
The young painter grew restless after a while, and
felt the life of the studio narrow and cramped.
He longed to leave Florence and find work in some
He was not a favourite at the court of Lorenzo
the Magnificent as Filippino Lippi and Botticelli
were. Lorenzo liked those who would flatter him
and do as they were bid, while Leonardo took his
own way in everything and never said what he did
But it happened that just then Lorenzo wished
to send a present to Ludovico Sforza, the Duke of
Milan, and the gift he chose was a marvellous
musical instrument which Leonardo had just
It was a silver lute, made in the form of a horse's
head, the most curious and beautiful thing ever seen.
Lorenzo was charmed with it.
`Thou shalt take it thyself, as my messenger,' he
said to Leonardo. `I doubt if another can be found
who can play upon it as thou dost.'
So Leonardo set out for Milan, and was glad to
shake himself free from the narrow life of the
Before starting, however, he had written a letter
to the Duke setting down in simple order all the
things he could do, and telling of what use he could
be in times of war and in days of peace.
There seemed nothing that he could not do. He
could make bridges, blow up castles, dig canals,
invent a new kind of cannon, build warships, and
make underground passages. In days of peace he
could design and build houses, make beautiful
statues and paint pictures `as well as any man, be
he who he may.'
The letter was written in curious writing from
right to left like Hebrew or Arabic. This was how
Leonardo always wrote, using his left hand, so that
it could only be read by holding the writing up to
The Duke was half amazed and half amused when
the letter reached him.
`Either these are the words of a fool, or of a man
of genius,' said the Duke. And when he had once
seen and spoken to Leonardo he saw at once which
of the two he deserved to be called.
Every one at the court was charmed with the
artist's beautiful face and graceful manners. His
music alone, as he swept the strings of the silver
lute and sang to it his own songs, would have
brought him fame, but the Duke quickly saw that
this was no mere minstrel.
It was soon arranged therefore that Leonardo
should take up his abode at the court of Milan
and receive a yearly pension from the Duke.
Sometimes the pension was paid, and sometimes
it was forgotten, but Leonardo never troubled about
money matters. Somehow or other he must have
all that he wanted, and everything must be fair
and dainty. His clothes were always rich and
costly, but never bright-coloured or gaudy. There
was no plume or jewelled brooch in his black velvet
beretto or cap, and the only touch of colour was
his golden hair, and the mantle of dark red cloth
which he wore in the fashion of the Florentines,
thrown across his shoulder. Above all, he must
always have horses in his stables, for he loved them
more than human beings.
Many were the plans and projects which the
Duke entrusted to Leonardo's care, but of all that
he did, two great works stand out as greater than
all the rest. One was the painting of the Last
Supper on the walls of the refectory of Santa Maria
delle Grazie, and the other the making of a model
of a great equestrian statue, a bronze horse with
the figure of the Duke upon its back.
`Year after year Leonardo worked at that wonderful
fresco of the Last Supper. Sometimes for weeks
or months he never touched it, but he always
returned to it again. Then for days he would
work from morning till night, scarcely taking time
to eat, and able to think of nothing else, until
suddenly he would put down his brushes and stand
silently for a long, long time before the picture.
It seemed as if he was wasting the precious hours
doing nothing, but in truth he worked more
diligently with his brain when his hands were idle.
Often too when he worked at the model for the
great bronze horse, he would suddenly stop, and
walk quickly through the streets until he came to
the refectory, and there, catching up his brushes,
he would paint in one or perhaps two strokes, and
then return to his modelling.
Besides all this Leonardo was busy with other
plans for the Duke's amusement, and no court fete
was counted successful without his help. Nothing
seemed too difficult for him to contrive, and what
he did was always new and strange and wonderful.
Once when the King of France came as a guest
to Milan, Leonardo prepared a curious model of a
lion, which by some inside machinery was able to
walk forward several steps to meet the King, and
then open wide its huge jaws and display inside a
bed of sweet-scented lilies, the emblem of France,
to do honour to her King. But while working at
other things Leonardo never forgot his longing
to learn the secret art of flying. Every now and
then a new idea would come into his head, and he
would lay aside all other work until he had made
the new machine which might perhaps act as the
wings of a bird. Each fresh disappointment only
made him more keen to try again.
`I know we shall some day have wings,' he said
to his pupils, who sometimes wondered at the
strange work of the master's hands. `It is only a
question of knowing how to make them. I
remember once when I was a baby lying in my
cradle, I fancied a bird flew to me, opened my lips
and rubbed its feathers over them. So it seems to
be my fate all my life to talk of wings.'
Very slowly the great fresco of the Last Supper
grew under the master's hand until it was nearly
finished. The statue, too, was almost completed,
and then evil days fell upon Milan. The Duke was
obliged to flee before the French soldiers, who
forced their way into the town and took possession
of it. Before any one could prevent it, the soldiers
began to shoot their arrows at the great statue,
which they used as a target, and in a few hours the
work of sixteen years was utterly destroyed. It is
sadder still to tell the fate of Leonardo's fresco, the
greatest picture perhaps that ever was painted.
Dampness lurked in the wall and began to dim and
blur the colours. The careless monks cut a door
through the very centre of the picture, and, later on,
when Napoleon's soldiers entered Milan, they used
the refectory as a stable, and amused themselves by
throwing stones at what remained of it. But though
little of it is left now to be seen, there is still enough
to make us stand in awe and reverence before the
genius of the great master.
Not far from Milan there lived a friend of
Leonardo's, whom the master loved to visit. This
Girolamo Melzi had a son called Francesco, a little
motherless boy, who adored the great painter with
all his heart.
Together Leonardo and the child used to wander
out to search for curious animals and rare flowers,
and as they watched the spiders weave their webs
and pulled the flowers to pieces to find out their
secrets, the boy listened with wide wondering eyes
to all the tales which the painter told him. And
at night Leonardo wrapped the little one close
inside his warm cloak and carried him out to see
the stars--those same stars which old Toscanelli had
taught him to love long ago in Florence. Then
when the day of parting came the child clung
round the master's neck and would not let him go.
`Take me with thee,' he cried, `do not leave me
behind all alone.'
`I cannot take thee now, little one,' said
Leonardo gently. `Thou art still too small, but later
on thou shalt come to me and be my pupil. This I
It was but a weary wandering life that awaited
Leonardo after he was forced to leave his home
in Milan. It seemed as if it was his fate to begin
many things but to finish nothing. For a while
he lived in Rome, but he did little real work there.
For several years he lived in Florence and began
to paint a huge battle-picture. There too he painted
the famous portrait of Mona Lisa, which is now in
Paris. Of all portraits that have ever been painted
this is counted the most wonderful and perfect
piece of work, although Leonardo himself called it
By this time the master had fallen on evil days.
All his pupils were gone, and his friends seemed to
have forgotten him. He was sitting before the
fire one stormy night, lonely and sad, when the
door opened and a tall handsome lad came in.
`Master!' he cried, and kneeling down he kissed
the old man's hands. `Dost thou not know me?
I am thy little Francesco, come to claim thy
promise that I should one day be thy servant and
Leonardo laid his hand upon the boy's fair head
and looked into his face.
`I am growing old,' he said, `and I can no longer
do for thee what I might once have done. I am
but a poor wanderer now. Dost thou indeed wish
to cast in thy lot with mine?'
`I care only to be near thee,' said the boy. `I
will go with thee to the ends of the earth.'
So when, soon after, Leonardo received an
invitation from the new King of France, he took the
boy with him, and together they made their home
in the little chateau of Claux near the town of
The master's hair was silvered now, and his long
beard was as white as snow. His keen blue eyes
looked weary and tired of life, and care had drawn
many deep lines on his beautiful face. Sad thoughts
were always his company. The one word `failure'
seemed to be written across his life. What had
he done? He had begun many things and had
finished but few. His great fresco was even now
fading away and becoming dim and blurred. His
model for the marvellous horse was destroyed. A
few pictures remained, but these had never quite
reached his ideal. The crowd who had once hailed
him as the greatest of all artists, could now only
talk of Michelangelo and the young Raphael.
Michelangelo himself had once scornfully told him
he was a failure and could finish nothing.
He was glad to leave Italy and all its memories
behind, and he hoped to begin work again in his
quiet little French home. But Death was drawing
near, and before many years had passed he grew too
weak to hold a brush or pencil.
It was in the springtime of the year that the
end came. Francesco had opened the window and
gently lifted the master in his strong young arms,
that he might look once more on the outside world
which he loved so dearly. The trees were putting
on their dainty dress of tender green, white clouds
swept across the blue sky, and April sunshine
flooded the room.
As he looked out, the master's tired eyes woke
`Look!' he cried, `the swallows have come
back! Oh that they would lend me their wings
that I might fly away and be at rest!'
The swallows darted and circled about in the
clear spring air, busy with their building plans, but
Francesco thought he heard the rustle of other
wings, as the master's soul, freed from the tired
body, was at last borne upwards higher than any
earthly wings could soar.
Among the marvellous tales of the Arabian Nights,
there is a story told of a band of robbers who, by
whispering certain magic words, were able to open
the door of a secret cave where treasures of gold and
silver and precious jewels lay hid. Now, although
the day of such delightful marvels is past and gone,
yet there still remains a certain magic in some
names which is able to open the secret doors of the
hidden haunts of beauty and delight.
For most people the very name of `Raphael' is
like the `Open Sesame' of the robber chief in the
old story. In a moment a door seems to open out
of the commonplace everyday world, and through it
they see a stretch of fair sweet country. There
their eyes rest upon gentle, dark-eyed Madonnas,
who smile down lovingly upon the heavenly Child,
playing at her side or resting in her arms. The
little St. John is also there, companion of the Infant
Christ; rosy, round-limbed children both, half
human and half divine. And standing in the background
are a crowd of grave, quiet figures, each one
alive with interest, while over all there is a glow of
intense vivid colour.
We know but little of the everyday life of this
great artist. When we hear his name, it is of his
different pictures that we think at once, for they
are world-famous. We almost forget the man as
we gaze at his work.
It was in the little village of Urbino, in Umbria,
that Raphael was born. His father was a painter
called Giovanni Santi, and from him Raphael
inherited his love of Art. His mother, Magia, was a
sweet, gracious woman, and the little Raphael was
like her in character and beauty. It seemed as if
the boy had received every good gift that Nature
could bestow. He had a lovely oval face, and soft
dark eyes that shone with a beauty that was more
of heaven than earth, and told of a soul which was as
pure and lovely as his face. Above all, he had the
gift of making every one love him, so that his should
have been a happy sunshiny life.
But no one can ever escape trouble, and when
Raphael was only eight years old, the first cloud
overspread his sky. His mother died, and soon
after his father married again.
The new mother was very young, and did not
care much for children, but Raphael did not mind
that as long as he could be with his father. But
three years later a blacker cloud arose and blotted
out the sunshine from his life, for his father too died,
and left him all alone.
The boy had loved his father dearly, and it had
been his great delight to be with him in the studio,
to learn to grind and mix the colours and watch
those wonderful pictures grow from day to day.
But now all was changed. The quiet studio rang
with angry voices, and the peaceful home was the
scene of continual quarrelling. Who was to have
the money, and how were the Santi estates to be
divided? Stepmother and uncle wrangled from
morning until night, and no one gave a thought to
the child Raphael. It was only the money that
Then when it seemed that the boy's training was
going to be totally neglected, kindly help arrived.
Simone di Ciarla, brother of Raphael's own mother,
came to look after his little nephew, and ere long
carried him off from the noisy, quarrelsome household,
and took him to Perugia.
`Thou shalt have the best teaching in all Italy,'
said Simone as they walked through the streets of
the town. `The great master to whose studio we
go, can hold his own even among the artists of
Florence. See that thou art diligent to learn all
that he can teach thee, so that thou mayest become
as great a painter as thy father.'
`Am I to be the pupil of the great Perugino?'
asked Raphael, his eyes shining with pleasure. `I
have often heard my father speak of his marvellous
`We will see if he can take thee,' answered his
The boy's heart sunk. What if the master refused
to take him as a pupil? Must he return to idleness
and the place which was no longer home?
But soon his fears were set at rest. Perugino,
like every one else, felt the charm of that beautiful
face and gentle manner, and when he had seen some
drawings which the boy had done, he agreed readily
that Raphael should enter the studio and become
Perugia had been passing through evil times
just before this. The two great parties of the Oddi
and Baglioni families were always at war together.
Whichever of them happened to be the stronger
held the city and drove out the other party, so that
the fighting never ceased either inside or outside
the gates. The peaceful country round about had
been laid waste and desolate. The peasants did
not dare go out to till their fields or prune their
olive-trees. Mothers were afraid to let their
little ones out of their sight, for hungry wolves
and other wild beasts prowled about the deserted
Then came a day when the outside party
managed to creep silently into the city, and the
most terrible fight of all began. So long and
fiercely did the battle rage that almost all the Oddi
were killed. Then for a time there was peace in
Perugia and all the country round.
So it happened that as soon as the people of
Perugia had time to think of other things besides
fighting, they began to wish that their town might
be put in order, and that the buildings which had
been injured during the struggles might be restored.
This was a good opportunity for peaceful men
like Perugino, for there was much work to be done,
and both he and his pupils were kept busy from
morning till night.
Of all his pupils, Perugino loved the young
Raphael best. He saw at once that this was no
`He is my pupil now, but soon he will be my
master,' he used to say as he watched the boy at
So he taught him with all possible carefulness,
and was never tired of giving him good advice.
`Learn first of all to draw,' he would say, when
Raphael looked with longing eyes at the colours and
brushes of the master. `Draw everything you see,
no matter what it is, but always draw and draw
again. The rest will follow; but if the knowledge
of drawing be lacking, nothing will afterwards
succeed. Keep always at hand a sketch-book, and
draw therein carefully every manner of thing that
meets thy eye.'
Raphael never forgot the good advice of his
master. He was never without a sketch-book, and
his drawings now are almost as interesting as his
great pictures, for they show the first thought that
came into his mind, before the picture was composed.
So the years passed on, and Raphael learned all
that the master could teach him. At first his
pictures were so like Perugino's, that it was difficult
to know whether they were the work of the master
or the pupil.
But the quiet days at Perugia soon came to an
end, and Perugino went back to Florence. For
some time Raphael worked at different places near
Perugia, and then followed his master to the City
of Flowers, where every artist longed to go. Though
he was still but a young man, the world had already
begun to notice his work, and Florence gladly
welcomed a new artist.
It was just at that time that Leonardo da Vinci's
fame was at its height, and when Raphael was
shown some of the great man's work, he was filled
with awe and wonder. The genius of Leonardo
held him spellbound.
`It is what I have dreamed of in my dreams,' he
said. `Oh that I might learn his secret!'
Little by little the new ideas sunk into his heart,
and the pictures he began to paint were no longer
like those of his old master Perugino, but seemed to
breathe some new spirit.
It was always so with Raphael. He seemed to
be able to gather the best from every one, just as the
bee goes from flower to flower and gathers its sweetness
into one golden honeycomb. Only the genius
of Raphael made all that he touched his very own,
and the spirit of his pictures is unlike that of any
For many years after this he lived in Rome,
where now his greatest frescoes may be seen--
frescoes so varied and wonderful that many books
have been written about them.
There he first met Margarita, the young maiden
whom he loved all his life. It is her face which
looks down upon us from the picture of the Sistine
Madonna, perhaps the most famous Madonna that
ever was painted. The little room in the Dresden
Gallery where this picture now hangs seems almost
like a holy place, for surely there is something
divine in that fair face. There she stands, the
Queen of Heaven, holding in her arms the Infant
Christ, with such a strange look of majesty and
sadness in her eyes as makes us realise that she was
indeed fit to be the Mother of our Lord.
But the picture which all children love best is one
in Florence called `The Madonna of the Goldfinch.'
It is a picture of the Holy Family, the Infant
Jesus, His mother, and the little St. John. The
Christ Child is a dear little curly-headed baby, and
He stands at His mother's knee with one little bare
foot resting on hers. His hand is stretched out
protectingly over a yellow goldfinch which St. John,
a sturdy little figure clad in goatskins, has just
brought to Him. The baby face is full of tender
love and care for the little fluttering prisoner, and
His curved hand is held over its head to protect it.
`Do not hurt My bird,' He seems to say to the
eager St. John, `for it belongs to Me and to My
These are only two of the many pictures which
Raphael painted. It is wonderful to think how
much work he did in his short life, for he died when
he was only thirty-seven. He had been at work at
St. Peter's, giving directions about some alterations,
and there he was seized by a severe chill, and in a
few days the news spread like wildfire through the
country that Raphael was dead.
It seemed almost as if it could not be true. He
had been so full of life and health, so eager for work,
such a living power among men.
But there he lay, beautiful in death as he had
been in life, and over his head was hung the picture
of the `Transfiguration,' on which he had been at
work, its colours yet wet, never to be finished by that
All Rome flocked to his funeral, and high and
low mourned his loss. But he left behind him a
fame which can never die, a name which through
all these four hundred years has never lost the magic
of its greatness.
Sometimes in a crowd of people one sees a tall man,
who stands head and shoulders higher than any one
else, and who can look far over the heads of ordinary-
`What a giant!' we exclaim, as we gaze up and see
him towering above us.
So among the crowd of painters travelling along
the road to Fame we see above the rest a giant,
a greater and more powerful genius than any that
came before or after him. When we hear the name
of Michelangelo we picture to ourselves a great
rugged, powerful giant, a veritable son of thunder,
who, like the Titans of old, bent every force of Nature
to his will.
This Michelangelo was born at Caprese among the
mountains of Casentino. His father, Lodovico
Buonarroti, was podesta or mayor of Caprese, and came
of a very ancient and honourable family, which had
often distinguished itself in the service of Florence.
Now the day on which the baby was born happened
to be not only a Sunday, but also a morning when
the stars were especially favourable. So the wise
men declared that some heavenly virtue was sure
to belong to a child born at that particular time, and
without hesitation Lodovico determined to call his
little son Michael Angelo, after the archangel Michael.
Surely that was a name splendid enough to adorn
any great career.
It happened just then that Lodovico's year of
office ended, and so he returned with his wife and
child to Florence. He had a property at Settignano,
a little village just outside the city, and there he
Most of the people of the village were stone-
cutters, and it was to the wife of one of these
labourers that little Michelangelo was sent to be
nursed. So in after years the great master often
said that if his mind was worth anything, he owed
it to the clear pure mountain air in which he was
born, just as he owed his love of carving stone to
the unconscious influence of his nurse, the stone-
As the boy grew up he clearly showed in what
direction his interest lay. At school he was something
of a dunce at his lessons, but let him but have
a pencil and paper and his mind was wide awake
at once. Every spare moment he spent making
sketches on the walls of his father's house.
But Lodovico would not hear of the boy becoming
an artist. There were many children to provide for,
and the family was not rich. It would be much
more fitting that Michelangelo should go into the
silk and woollen business and learn to make money.
But it was all in vain to try to make the boy see
the wisdom of all this. Scold as they might, he
cared for nothing but his pencil, and even after he
was severely beaten he would creep back to his
beloved work. How he envied his friend Francesco
who worked in the shop of Master Ghirlandaio! It
was a joy even to sit and listen to the tales of the
studio, and it was a happy day when Francesco
brought some of the master's drawings to show to
his eager friend.
Little by little Lodovico began to see that there
was nothing for it but to give way to the boy's wishes,
and so at last, when he was fourteen years old,
Michelangelo was sent to study as a pupil in the studio
of Master Ghirlandaio.
It was just at the time when Ghirlandaio was
painting the frescoes of the chapel in Santa Maria Novella,
and Michelangelo learned many lessons as he watched
the master at work, or even helped with the less
But it was like placing an eagle in a hawk's nest.
The young eagle quickly learned to soar far higher
than the hawk could do, and ere long began to
`sweep the skies alone.'
It was not pleasant for the great Florentine
master, whose work all men admired, to have his
drawings corrected by a young lad, and perhaps
Michelangelo was not as humble as he should have
been. In the strength of his great knowledge he
would sometimes say sharp and scornful things, and
perhaps he forgot the respect due from pupil to
Be that as it may, he left Ghirlandaio's studio when
he was sixteen years old, and never had another
master. Thenceforward he worked out his own ideas
in his giant strength, and was the pupil of none.
The boy Francesco was still his friend, and
together they went to study in the gardens of San
Marco, where Lorenzo the Magnificent had collected
many statues and works of art. Here was a new
field for Michelangelo. Without needing a lesson
he began to copy the statues in terra-cotta, and so
clever was his work that Lorenzo was delighted
`See, now, what thou canst do with marble,' he
said. `Terra-cotta is but poor stuff to work in.'
Michelangelo had never handled a chisel before,
but he chipped and cut away the marble so marvellously
that life seemed to spring out of the stone.
There was a marble head of an old faun in the
garden, and this Michelangelo set himself to copy.
Such a wonderful copy did he make that Lorenzo
was amazed. It was even better than the original,
for the boy had introduced ideas of his own and had
made the laughing mouth a little open to show the
teeth and the tongue of the faun. Lorenzo noticed
this, and turned with a smile to the young artist.
`Thou shouldst have remembered that old folks
never keep all their teeth, but that some of them
are always wanting,' he said.
Of course Lorenzo meant this as a joke, but
Michelangelo immediately took his hammer and struck out
several of the teeth, and this too pleased Lorenzo
There was nothing that the Magnificent ruler
loved so much as genius, so Michelangelo was received
into the palace and made the companion of Lorenzo's
sons. Not only did good fortune thus smile upon the
young artist, but to his great astonishment Lodovico
too found that benefits were showered upon him, all
for the sake of his famous young son.
These years of peace, and calm, steady work had the
greatest effect on Michelangelo's work, and he learned
much from the clever, brilliant men who thronged
Lorenzo's court. Then, too, he first listened to that
ringing voice which strove to raise Florence to a
sense of her sins, when Savonarola preached his great
sermons in the Duomo. That teaching sank deep
into the heart of Michelangelo, and years afterwards
he left on the walls of the Sistine Chapel a living
echo of those thundering words.
Like all the other artists, he would often go to
study Masaccio's frescoes in the little chapel of
the Carmine. There was quite a band of young
artists working there, and very soon they began to
look with envious feelings at Michelangelo's drawings,
and their jealousy grew as his fame increased. At
last, one day, a youth called Torriggiano could bear
it no longer, and began to make scornful remarks,
and worked himself up into such a rage that he
aimed a blow at Michelangelo with his fist, which
not only broke his nose but crushed it in such a way
that he was marked for life. He had had a rough,
rugged look before this, but now the crooked nose
gave him almost a savage expression which he never
Changes followed fast after this time of quiet.
Lorenzo the Magnificent died, and his son, the weak
Piero de Medici, tried to take his place as ruler of
Florence. For a time Michelangelo continued to live
at the court of Piero, but it was not encouraging to
work for a master whose foolish taste demanded
statues to be made out of snow, which, of course,
melted at the first breath of spring.
Michelangelo never forgot all that he owed to
Lorenzo, and he loved the Medici family, but his
sense of justice made him unable to take their part
when trouble arose between them and the Florentine
people. So when the struggle began he left Florence
and went first to Venice and then to Bologna. From
afar he heard how the weak Piero had been driven
out of the city, but more bitter still was his grief
when the news came that the solemn warning voice
of the great preacher Savonarola was silenced for
Then a great longing to see his beloved city again
filled his heart, and he returned to Florence.
Botticelli was a sad, broken-down old man now,
and Ghirlandaio was also growing old, but Florence
was still rich in great artists. Leonardo da Vinci,
Perugino, and Filippino Lippi were all there, and
men talked of the coming of an even greater genius,
the young Raphael of Urbino.
There happened just then to be at the works of the
Cathedral of St. Mary of the Flowers a huge block
of marble which no one knew how to use. Leonardo
da Vinci had been invited to carve a statue out of it,
but he had refused to try, saying he could do nothing
with it. But when the marble was offered to Michelangelo
his eye kindled and he stood for a long time
silent before the great white block. Through the
outer walls of stone he seemed to see the figure
imprisoned in the marble, and his giant strength and
giant mind longed to go to work to set that figure
And when the last covering of marble was chipped
and cut away there stood out a magnificent figure of
the young David. Perhaps he is too strong and
powerful for our idea of the gentle shepherd-lad, but
he is a wonderful figure, and Goliath might well have
trembled to meet such a young giant.
People flocked to see the great statue, and many
were the discussions as to where it should be placed.
Artists were never tired of giving their opinion, and
even of criticising the work. `It seems to me,' said
one, `that the nose is surely much too large for the
face. Could you not alter that?'
Michelangelo said nothing, but he mounted the
scaffolding and pretended to chip away at the nose
with his chisel. Meanwhile he let drop some marble
chips and dust upon the head of the critic beneath.
Then he came down.
`Is that better?' he asked gravely.
`Admirable!' answered the artist. `You have
given it life.'
Michelangelo smiled to himself. How wise people
thought themselves when they often knew nothing
about what they were talking! But the critic was
satisfied, and did not notice the smile.
It would fill a book to tell of all the work which
Michelangelo did; but although he began so much, a
great deal of it was left unfinished. If he had lived
in quieter times, his work would have been more
complete; but one after another his patrons died, or
changed their minds, and set him to work at something
else before he had finished what he was doing.
The great tomb which Pope Julius had ordered
him to make was never finished, although Michelangelo
drew out all the designs for it, and for forty
years was constantly trying to complete it. The
Pope began to think it was an evil omen to build his
own tomb, so he made up his mind that Michelangelo
should instead set to work to fresco the ceiling
of the Sistine Chapel. In vain did the great
sculptor repeat that he knew but little of the art of
`Didst thou not learn to mix colours in the studio
of Master Ghirlandaio?' said Julius. `Thou hast but
to remember the lessons he taught thee. And,
besides, I have heard of a great drawing of a battle-
scene which thou didst make for the Florentines,
and have seen many drawings of thine, one especially:
a terrible head of a furious old man, shrieking
in his rage, such as no other hand than thine could
have drawn. Is there aught that thou canst not do
if thou hast but the will?'
And the Pope was right; for as soon as
Michelangelo really made up his mind to do the work, all
difficulties seemed to vanish.
It was no easy task he had undertaken. To stand
upright and cover vast walls with painting is difficult
enough, but Michelangelo was obliged to lie
flat upon a scaffolding and paint the ceiling above
him. Even to look up at that ceiling for ten minutes
makes the head and neck ache with pain, and we
wonder how such a piece of work could ever have
No help would the master accept, and he had no
pupils. Alone he worked, and he could not bear to
have any one near him looking on. In silence and
solitude he lay there painting those marvellous
frescoes of the story of the Creation to the time of
Noah. Only Pope Julius himself dared to disturb
the master, and he alone climbed the scaffolding and
watched the work.
`When wilt thou have finished?' was his constant
cry. `I long to show thy work to the world.'
`Patience, patience,' said Michelangelo. `Nothing
is ready yet.'
`But when wilt thou make an end?' asked the
impatient old man.
`When I can,' answered the painter.
Then the Pope lost his temper, for he was not
accustomed to be answered like this.
`Dost thou want to be thrown head first from the
scaffold?' he asked angrily. `I tell thee that will
happen if the work is not finished at once.'
So, incomplete as they were, Michelangelo was
obliged to uncover the frescoes that all Rome might
see them. It was many years before the ceiling was
finished or the final fresco of the Last Judgment
painted upon the end wall.
Michelangelo lived to be a very old man, and his
life was lonely and solitary to the end. The one
woman he loved, Vittoria Colonna, had died, and
with her death all brightness for him had faded.
Although he worked so much in Rome, it was always
Florence that he loved. There it was that he began
the statues for the Chapel of the Medici, and there,
too, he helped to build the defences of San Miniato
when the Medici family made war upon the City of
So when the great man died in Rome it seemed
but fit that his body should be carried back to his
beloved Florence. There it now rests in the Church
of Santa Croce, while his giant works, his great and
terrible thoughts breathed out into marble or flashed
upon the walls of the Sistine Chapel, live on for ever,
filling the minds of men with a great awe and wonder
as they gaze upon them.
ANDREA DEL SARTO
Nowhere in Florence could a more honest man or
a better worker be found than Agnolo the tailor.
True, there were once evil tales whispered about him
when he first opened his shop in the little street. It
was said that he was no Italian, but a foreigner who
had been obliged to flee from his own land because
of a quarrel he had had with one of his customers.
People shook their heads and talked mysteriously
of how the tailor's scissors had been used as a deadly
weapon in the fight. But ere long these stories died
away, and the tailor, with his wife Constanza, lived
a happy, busy life, and brought up their six children
carefully and well.
Now out of those six children five were just the
ordinary commonplace little ones such as one would
expect to meet in a tailor's household, but the sixth
was like the ugly duckling in the fairy tale--a little,
strange bird, unlike all the rest, who learned to swim
far away and soon left the old commonplace home
The boy's name was Andrea. He was such a
quick, sharp little boy that he was sent very early
to school, and had learned to read and write before
he was seven years old. As that was considered
quite enough education, his father then took him
away from school and put him to work with a goldsmith.
It is early days to begin work at seven years old,
but Andrea thought it was quite as good as play.
He was always perfectly happy if he could have a
pencil and paper, and his drawings and designs were
really so wonderfully good that his master grew to
be quite proud of the child and showed the work to
all his customers.
Next door to the goldsmith's shop there lived an
old artist called Barile, who began to take a great
interest in little Andrea. Barile was not a great
painter, but still there was much that he could
teach the boy, and he was anxious to have him as a
pupil. So it was arranged that Andrea should enter
the studio and learn to be an artist instead of a
For three years the boy worked steadily with his
new master, but by that time Barile saw that better
teaching was needed than he could give. So after
much thought the old man went to the great Florentine
artist Piero di Cosimo, and asked him if he
would agree to receive Andrea as his pupil. `You
will find the boy no trouble,' he urged. `He has
wonderful talent, and already he has learnt to mix
his colours so marvellously that to my mind there is
no artist in Florence who knows more about colour
than little Andrea' Cosimo shook his head in
unbelief. The boy was but a child, and this praise
seemed absurd. However, the drawings were certainly
extraordinary, and he was glad to receive so
clever a pupil.
But little by little, as Cosimo watched the boy at
work, his unbelief vanished and his wonder grew,
until he was as fond and proud of his pupil as the
old master had been. `He handles his colours as if
he had had fifty years of experience,' he would say
proudly, as he showed off the boy's work to some
And truly the knowledge of drawing and colouring
seemed to come to the boy without any effort.
Not that he was idle or trusted to chance. He was
never tired of work, and his greatest joy on holidays
was to go of and study the drawings of the great
Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci. Often he
would spend the whole day copying these drawings
with the greatest care, never tired of learning more
As Andrea grew older, all Florence began to take
note of the young painter--`Andrea del Sarto,' as he
was called, or `the tailor's Andrew,' for sarto is the
Italian word for tailor.
What a splendid new star this was rising in the
heaven of Art! Who could tell how bright it
would shine ere long? Perhaps the tailor's son
would yet eclipse the magic name of Raphael. His
colour was perfect, his drawing absolutely correct.
They called him in their admiration `the faultless
painter.' But had he, indeed, the artist soul? That
was the question. For, perfect as his pictures were,
they still lacked something. Perhaps time would
teach him to supply that want.
Meanwhile there was plenty of work for the young
artist, and when he set up his own studio with
another young painter, he was at once invited to
fresco the walls of the cloister of the Scalzo, or bare-
This was the happiest time of all Andrea's life.
The two friends worked happily together, and spent
many a merry day with their companions. Every
day Andrea learned to add more softness and delicacy
to his colouring until his pictures seemed verily
to glow with life. Every day he dreamed fresh
dreams of the fame and honour that awaited him.
And when work was over, the two young painters
would go off to meet their friends and make merry
over their supper as they told all the latest jokes
and wittiest stories, and forgot for a while the serious
art of painting pictures.
There were twelve of these young men who met
together, and each of them was bound to bring some
particular dish for the general supper. Every one
tried to think of something especially nice and
uncommon, but no one managed such surprising
delicacies as Andrea. There was one special dish
which no one ever forgot. It was in the shape of
a temple, with its pillars made of sausages. The
pavement was formed of little squares of different
coloured jelly, the tops of the pillars were cheese,
and the roof was of sugar, with a frieze of sweets
running round it. Inside the temple there was a
choir of roast birds with their mouths wide open,
and the priests were two fat pigeons. It was the
most splendid supper-dish that ever was seen.
Every one was fond of the clever young painter.
He was so kind and courteous to all, and so simple-
hearted that it was impossible for the others to feel
jealous or to grudge him the fame and praise that
was showered upon him more and more as each
fresh picture was finished.
Then just when all gave promise of sunshine and
happiness, a little cloud rose in his blue sky, which
grew and grew until it dimmed all the glory of his life.
In the Via di San Gallo, not very far from the street
where Andrea and his friend lodged, there lived a
very beautiful woman called Lucrezia. She was
not a highborn lady, only the daughter of a working
man, but she was as proud and haughty as she was
beautiful. Nought cared she for things high and
noble, she was only greedy of praise and filled with
a desire to have her own way in everything. Yet
her lovely face seemed as if it must be the mirror
of a lovely soul, and when the young painter
Andrea first saw her his heart went out towards her.
She was his long-dreamed-of ideal of beauty and
grace, the vision of loveliness which he had been
trying to grasp all his life.
`What hath bewitched thee?' asked his friend as
he watched Andrea restlessly pacing up and down
the studio, his brushes thrown aside and his work
left unfinished. `Thou hast done little work for
`I cannot paint,' answered Andrea, `for I see
only one face ever before me, and it comes between
me and my work.'
`Thou art ruining all thy chances,' said the friend
sadly, `and the face thou seest is not worth the
Andrea turned on his heel with an angry look
and went out. All his friends were against him
now. No one had a good word for the beautiful
Lucrezia. But she was worth all the world to him,
and he had made up his mind to marry her.
It was winter time, and the Christmas bells had
but yesterday rung out the tidings of the Holy
Birthday when Andrea at last obtained his heart's
desire and made Lucrezia his wife. The joyful
Christmastide seemed a fit season in which to set
the seal upon his great happiness, and he thought
himself the most fortunate of men. He had asked
advice of none, and had told no one what he meant
to do, but the news of his marriage was soon noised
`Hast thou heard the news of young Andrea del
Sarto?' asked the people of Florence of one another.
`I fear he has dealt an evil blow at his own chances
One by one his friends left him, and many of his
pupils deserted the studio. Lucrezia's sharp tongue
was unbearable, and she made mischief among them
all. Only Andrea remained blinded by her beauty,
and thought that now, with such a model always near
him, he would paint as he had never painted before.
But little did Lucrezia care to help him with his
work. His pictures meant nothing to her except
so far as they sold well and brought in money for
her to spend. Worst of all, she began to grudge
the help that he gave to his old father and mother,
who now were poor and needed his care.
And yet, although Andrea saw all this, he still
loved his beautiful wife and cared only how he
might please her. He scarcely painted a picture
that had not her face in it, for she was his ideal
Madonna, Queen of Heaven.
But it was not so easy now to put his whole heart
and soul into his work. True, his hand drew as
correctly as ever, and his colours were even more
beautiful, but often the soul seemed lacking.
`Thou dost work but slowly,' the proud beauty
would say, tired of sitting still as his model. `Why
canst thou not paint quicker and sell at higher
prices? I have need of more gold, and the money
seems to grow scarcer week by week.'
Andrea sighed. Truly the money vanished like
magic, as Lucrezia's jewels and dresses increased.
`Dear heart, have a little patience,' he said. `I
can but do my best.'
Then, as he looked at the angry discontented face
of his wife, he laid down his brushes and went to
kneel beside her.
`Lucrezia,' he said, `there needs something
besides mere drawing and painting to make a picture.
They call me ``the faultless painter,'' and it seemed
once as if I might have reached as high or even
higher than the great Raphael. It needed but the
soul put into my work, and if thou couldst have
helped me to reach my ideal, what would I not
have shown the world!'
`I do not understand thee,' said Lucrezia
petulantly, `and this is waste of time. Haste thee and
get back to thy brushes and paints, and see that
thou drivest a better bargain with this last picture.'
No, it was no use; she could never understand!
Andrea knew that he must look for no help from
her, and that he must paint in spite of the hindrances
she placed in his way. Well, his work was still
considered most beautiful, and he must make the
best of it.
Orders for pictures came now from far and near,
and before long some of Andrea's work found its
way into France; and when King Francis saw it he
was so anxious to have the painter at his court, that
he sent a royal invitation, begging Andrea to come
at once to France and enter the king's service.
The invitation came when Andrea was feeling
hopeless and dispirited. Lucrezia gave him no
peace, the money was all spent, and he was weary
of work. The thought of starting afresh in another
country put new courage into him. He made up
his mind to go at once to the French court. He
would leave Lucrezia in some safe place and send
her all the money he could earn.
How good it was to leave all his troubles behind,
and to set off that glad May day when all the world
breathed of new life and new hope. Perhaps the
winter of his life was passed too, and only sunshine
and summer was in store.
Andrea's welcome at the French court was most
flattering. Nothing was thought too good for the
famous Florentine painter, and he was treated like
a prince. The king loaded him with gifts, and gave
him costly clothes and money for all his needs. A
portrait of the infant Dauphin was begun at once, for
which Andrea received three hundred golden pieces.
Month after month passed happily by. Andrea
painted many pictures, and each one was more
admired than the last. But his dream of happiness
did not last long. He was hard at work one day
when a letter was brought to him, sent by his wife
Lucrezia. She could not live without him, so she
wrote. He must come home at once. If he delayed
much longer he would not find her alive.
There could be, of course, but one answer to all
this. Andrea loved his wife too well to think of
refusing her request, and the days of peace and
plenty must come to an end. Even as he read her
letter he began to long to see her again, and the
thought of showing her all his gay clothes and
costly presents filled him with delight.
But the king was very loth to let the painter
go, and only at last consented when Andrea
promised most faithfully to return a few months
`I cannot spare thee for longer,' said Francis;
`but I will let thee go on condition that thou wilt
buy for me certain works of art in Italy, which I
have long coveted, and bring them back with thee.'
Then he entrusted to Andrea a large sum of
money and bade him buy the best pictures he could
find, and afterwards return without fail.
So Andrea journeyed back to Florence, and when
he was once again with his wife, his joy and delight
in her were so great that he forgot all his promises,
forgot even the king's trust, and allowed Lucrezia
to squander all the money which was to have been
spent on art treasures for King Francis.
Then returned the evil days of trouble and
quarrelling. Added to that the terrible feeling that
he had betrayed his trust and broken his word, made
Andrea more unhappy than ever. He dared not
return to France, but took up again his work in
Florence, always with the hope that he might make
enough money to repay the debt.
Years went by and dark days fell upon the City
of Flowers. She had made a great struggle for
liberty and had driven out the Medici, but they were
helped by enemies from without, and Florence was for
many months in a state of siege. There was constant
fighting going on and little time for peaceful work.
Yet through all those troubled days Andrea
worked steadily at his painting, and paid but little
heed to the fate of the city. The stir of battle did
not reach his quiet studio. There was enough strife
at home; no need to seek it outside.
It was about this time that he painted a beautiful
picture for the Company of San Jacopo, which was
used as a banner and carried in their processions.
Bad weather, wind, rain, and sunshine have spoiled
some of its beauty, but much of the loveliness still
remains. It is specially a children's picture, for
Andrea painted the great saint bending over a little
child in a white robe who kneels at his feet, while
another little figure kneels close by. The boy has
his hands folded together as if in prayer, and the
kind strong hand of the saint is placed lovingly
beneath the little chin. The other child is holding
a book, and both children press close against the
robe of the protecting saint.
But although Andrea could paint his pictures
undisturbed while war was raging around, there was
one enemy waiting to enter Florence who claimed
attention and could not be ignored. When the
triumphant troops gained an entrance by treachery,
they brought with them that deadly scourge which
was worse than any earthly enemy, the dreadful
illness called the plague.
Perhaps Andrea had suffered for want of good
food during the siege, perhaps he was overworked
and tired; but, whatever was the cause, he was one
of the first to be seized by that terrible disease.
Alone he fought the enemy, and alone he died.
Lucrezia had left him as soon as he fell ill, for she
feared the deadly plague, and Andrea gladly let her
go, for he loved her to the last with the same great
So passed away the faultless painter, and his was
the last great name engraved upon that golden
record of Florentine Art which had made Florence
famous in the eyes of the world. Other artists came
after him, but Art was on the wane in the City of
Flowers, and her glory was slowly departing.
We can trace no other great name upon her pages
and so we close the book, and our eyes turn towards
the shores of the blue Adriatic, where Venice,
Queen of the Sea, was writing, year by year,
another volume filled with the names of her own
Knights of Art.
Almost all the stories of the lives of the painters
which we have been listening to, until now, have
clustered round Florence, the City of Flowers.
She was their great mother, and her sons loved her
with a deep, passionate love, thinking nothing too
fair with which to deck her beauty. Wherever
they wandered she drew them back, for their very
heartstrings were wound around her, and each and
all strove to give her of their best.
But now we come to the stories of men whose
lives gather round a different centre. Instead of
the great mother-city beside the Arno, with her
strong towers and warlike citizens, the noise of
battle ever sounding in her streets, and her flowery
fields encircling her on every side, we have now
Venice, Queen of the Sea.
No warlike tread or tramp of angry crowds
disturbs her fair streets, for here are no pavements,
only the cool green water which laps the walls of
her marble palaces, and gives back the sound of the
dipping oar and the soft echo of passing voices, as
the gondolas glide along her watery ways. Here
are no grim grey towers of defence, but fairy palaces
of white and coloured marbles, which rise from the
waters below as if they had been built by the sea
nymphs, who had fashioned them of their own sea-
shells and mother-of-pearl.
There are no flowery meadows here, but instead
the vast waters of the lagoons, which reach out until
they meet the blue arc of the sky or touch the
distant mountains which lie like a purple line upon
the horizon. Here and there tiny islands lie upon
its bosom, so faint and fairylike that they scarcely
seem like solid land, reflected as they are in the
But although Venice has no meadows decked
with flowers and no wealth of blossoming trees,
everywhere on every side she shines with colour,
this wonderful sea-girt city. Her white marble
palaces glow with a soft amber light, the cool green
water that reflects her beauty glitters in rings of
gold and blue, changing from colour to colour as
each ripple changes its form. At sunset, when the
sun disappears over the edge of the lagoon and
leaves behind its trail of shining clouds, she is like
a dream-city rising from a sea of molten gold--a
double city, for in the pure gold is reflected each
tower and spire, each palace and campanile, in
masses of pale yellow and quivering white light,
with here and there a burning touch of flame colour.
She seems to have no connection with the solid,
ordinary cities of the world. There she lies in all
her beauty, silent and apart, like a white sea-bird
floating upon the bosom of the ocean.
Venice had always seemed separate and distinct
from the rest of the world. Her cathedral of San
Marco was never under the rule of Rome, and her
rulers, or doges, as they were called, governed the
city as kings, and did not trouble themselves with
the affairs of other towns. Her merchant princes
sailed to far countries and brought home precious
spoils to add to her beauty. Everything was as
rich and rare and splendid as it was possible to
make it, and she was unlike any other city on earth.
So the painters who lived and worked in this city
of the sea had their own special way of painting,
which was different to that of the Florentine school.
From their babyhood these men had looked upon
all this beauty of colour, and the love of it had
grown with their growth. The golden light on the
water, the pearly-grey and tinted marbles, the gay
sails of the galleys which swept the lagoons like
painted butterflies, the wide stretch of water ending
in the mystery of the distant skyline--it all sank into
their hearts, and it was little wonder that they
should strive to paint colour above all things, and
at last reach a perfection such as no other school of
painters has equalled.
As with the Florentine artists, so with these
Venetian painters, we must leave many names
unnoticed just now, and learn first to know those
which shine out clearest among the many bright
stars of fame.
In the beginning of the fifteenth century, four
hundred years ago, when Fra Filippo Lippi was
painting in Florence, there lived in Venice a certain
Jacopo Bellini, who was a painter, and who had
two sons called Gentile and Giovanni. The father
taught his boys with great care, and gave them the
best training he could, for he was anxious that his
sons should become great painters. He saw that
they were both clever and quick to learn, and he
hoped great things of them.
`Never do less than your very best,' he would say,
as he taught the boys how to draw and use their
colours. `See how the Tuscan artists strive with
one another, each desiring to do most honour to
their city of Florence. So, Gentile, I would have
thee also strive to be great; and thou, Giovanni,
endeavour to be even greater than thy brother.'
But though the boys were thus taught to try and
outdo each other, still they were always the best of
friends, and there was never any unkind rivalry
Gentile, the eldest, was fond of painting story
pictures, which told the history of Venice, and
showed the magnificent doges, and nobles, and
people of the city, dressed in their rich robes. The
Venetians loved pictures which showed forth the
glory of their city, and very soon Gentile was
invited to paint the walls of the Ducal Palace with
his historical pictures.
Now Venice carried on a great trade with her
ships, which sailed to many foreign lands. These
ships, loaded with merchandise, touched at different
ports, and the merchants sold their goods or took
in exchange other things which they brought back
to Venice. It happened that one of the ships which
set sail for Turkey had on board among other things
several pictures painted by Giovanni Bellini. These
were shown to the Sultan of Turkey, who had never
seen a picture before, and he was amazed and
delighted beyond words. His religion forbade the
making of pictures, but he paid no attention now to
that law, but sent a messenger to Venice praying
that the painter Bellini might come to him at once.
The rulers of Venice were unwilling to spare
Giovanni just then, but they allowed Gentile to go,
as his work at the Ducal Palace was finished.
So Gentile took his canvases and paints, and,
setting sail in one of the merchant ships, soon
arrived at the court of the Grand Turk.
He was received with every honour, and nothing
was thought too good for this wonderful painter,
who could make pictures which looked like living
men. The Sultan loaded him with gifts and favours,
and he lived there like a royal prince. Each picture
painted by Gentile was thought more wonderful
than the last. He painted a portrait of the Sultan,
and even one of himself, which was considered little
short of magic.
Thus a whole year passed by, and Gentile had a
most delightful time and was well contented, until one
day something happened which disturbed his peace.
He had painted a picture of the dancing daughter
of Herodias, with the head of John the Baptist in
her hand, and when it was finished he brought it
and presented it to the Sultan.
As usual, the Sultan was charmed with the new
picture; but he paused in his praises of its beauty,
and looked thoughtfully at the head of St. John, and
`It seems to me,' he said, `that there is something
not quite right about that head. I do not think a
head which had just been cut off would look exactly
as that does in your picture.'
Gentile answered courteously that he did not wish
to contradict his royal highness, but it seemed to
him that the head was right.
`We shall see,' said the Sultan calmly, and he
turned carelessly to a guard who stood close by and
bade him cut of the head of one of the slaves, that
Bellini might see if his picture was really correctly
This was more than Gentile could stand.
`Who knows,' he said to himself, `that the Sultan
may not wish to see next how my head would look
cut off from my body!'
So while his precious head was still safe upon his
shoulders he thought it wiser to slip quietly away and
return to Venice by the very first ship he could find.
Meanwhile Giovanni had worked steadily on, and
had far surpassed both his father and his brother.
Indeed, he had become the greatest painter in
Venice, the first of that wonderful Venetian school
which learned to paint such marvellous colour.
With all the wealth of delicate shading spread
out before his eyes, with the ever-changing wonder
of the opal-tinted sea meeting him on every side, it
was not strange that the love of colour sank into his
very heart. In his pictures we can see the golden
glow which bathes the marble palaces, the clear
green of the water, the pure blues and burning
crimsons all as transparent as crystal, not mere
paint but living colour.
Giovanni did not care to paint stories of Venice,
with great crowds of figures, as Gentile did. He
loved best the Madonna and saints, single figures
full of quiet dignity. His saints are more human
than those which Fra Angelico painted, and yet
they are not mere men and women, but something
higher and nobler. Instead of the angels swinging
their censers which the painter of San Marco so
lovingly drew, Giovanni's angels are little human
boys, with grave sweet faces; happy children with a
look of heaven in their eyes, as they play on their
little lutes and mandolines.
But besides the pictures of saints and angels,
Giovanni had a wonderful gift for painting portraits,
and most of the great people of Venice came to be
painted by him. In our own National Gallery we
have the portrait of the Doge Loredan, which is one
of those pictures which can teach you many things
when you have learned to look with seeing eyes.
So the brothers worked together, but before long
death carried off the elder, and Giovanni was left alone.
Though he was now very old, Giovanni worked
harder than ever, and his hand, instead of losing
power, seemed to grow stronger and more and more
skilful. He was ninety years old when he died, and
he worked almost up to the last.
The brothers were both buried in the church of
SS. Giovanni e Paolo, in the heart of Venice. There,
in the dim quietness of the old church, they lie at
rest together, undisturbed by the voices of the
passers-by in the square outside, or the lapping of
the water against the steps, as the tides ebb and
flow around their quiet resting-place.
Like most of the other great painters, Giovanni
Bellini had many pupils working under him--boys
who helped their master, and learned their lessons
by watching him work. Among these pupils was a
boy called Vittore Carpaccio, a sharp, clever lad,
with keen bright eyes which noticed everything.
No one else learned so quickly or copied the master's
work so faithfully, and when in time he became
himself a famous painter, his work showed to the end
traces of the master's influence.
He must have been a curious boy, this Vittore
Carpaccio, for although we know but little of his
life, his pictures tell us many a tale about him.
In the olden days, when Venice was at the height
of her glory, splendid fetes were given in the city,
and the gorgeous shows were a wonder to behold.
Early in the morning of these festa days, Carpaccio
would steal away in the dim light from the studio,
before the others were astir. Work was left behind,
for who could work indoors on days like these?
There was a holiday feeling in the very air. Songs
and laughter and the echo of merry voices were
heard on every side, and the city seemed one vast
playground, where all the grown-up children as well
as the babies were ready to spend a happy holiday.
The little side-streets of Venice, cut up by canals,
seem like a veritable maze to those who do not know
the city, but Carpaccio could quickly thread his way
from bridge to bridge, and by many a short cut
arrive at last at the great central water street of
Venice, the Grand Canal. Here it was easy to find
a corner from which he could see the gay pageant,
and enjoy as good a view as any of those great
people who would presently come out upon the
balconies of their marble palaces.
The bridge of the Rialto, which throws its white
span across the centre of the canal, was Carpaccio's
favourite perch, for from here he could see the
markets and the long row of marble palaces on
either side. From every window hung gay-coloured
tapestry, Turkey carpets, silken draperies, and
delicate-tinted stuffs covered with Eastern
embroideries. The market was crowded with a throng of
holiday-makers, a garden of bright colours and from
the balconies above richly dressed ladies looked
down, themselves a pageant of beauty, with their
wonderful golden hair and gleaming jewels, while
green and crimson parrots, fastened by golden
chains to the marble balustrades, screamed and
flapped their wings, and delighted Carpaccio's keen
eyes with their vivid beauty.
Then the procession of boats swept up the great
waterway, and the blaze of colour made the boy
hold his breath in sheer delight. The painted
galleys, the rowers in their quaint dresses-half one
colour and half another--with jaunty feathered caps
upon their floating curls, the nobles and rulers in
their crimson robes, the silken curtains of every hue
trailing their golden fringes in the cool green water,
as the boats glided past, all made up a picture which
the boy never forgot.
Then when it was all over, Carpaccio would climb
down and make his way back to the master's studio,
and with the gay scene ever before his eyes would
try, day after day, to paint every detail just as he
had seen it.
There is another thing which we learn about
Carpaccio from his pictures, and that is, that he
must have loved to listen to old legends and stories
of the saints, and that he stored them up in his
mind, just as he treasured the remembrance of the
gay processions and the flapping wings of those
crimson and green parrots.
So, when he grew to be a man, and his fame
began to spread, the first great pictures he painted
were of the story of St. Ursula, told in loving detail,
as only one who loved the story could do it.
But though Carpaccio might paint pictures of
these old stories, it was always through the golden
haze of Venice that he saw them. His St. Ursula is
a dainty Venetian lady, and the bedroom in which
she dreams her wonderful dream is just a room in
one of the old marble palaces, with a pot of pinks
upon the window-sill, and her little high-heeled
Venetian shoes by the bedside. Whenever it was
possible, Carpaccio would paint in those scenes on
which his eyes had rested since his childhood--the
painted galleys with their sails reflected in the clear
water, the dainty dresses of the Venetian ladies,
their gay-coloured parrots, pet dogs, and grinning
In an old church of Venice there are some
pictures said to have been painted by Carpaccio when
he was a little boy only eight years old. They are
scenes taken from the Bible stories, and very funny
scenes they are too. But they show already what
clever little hands and what a thinking head the boy
had, and how Venice was the background in his
mind for every story. For here is the meeting of
the Queen of Sheba and King Solomon, and instead
of Jerusalem with all its glory, we see a little
wooden bridge, with King Solomon on one side and
the Queen of Sheba on the other, walking towards
each other, as if they were both in Venice crossing
one of the little canals.
There were many foreign sailors in Venice in
those old days, who came in the trading-ships from
distant lands. Many of them were poor and unable
to earn money to buy food, and when they were ill
there was no one to look after them or help them.
So some of the richer foreigners founded a Brotherhood,
where the poor sailors might be helped in time
of need. This Brotherhood chose St. George as
their patron saint, and when they had built a little
chapel they invited Carpaccio to come and paint the
walls with pictures from the life of St. George and
Nothing could have suited Carpaccio better, and
he began his work with great delight, for he had
still his child's love of stories, and he would make
them as gay and wonderful as possible. There we
see St. George thundering along on his war-horse,
with flying hair, clad in beautiful armour, the most
perfect picture of a chivalrous knight. Then comes
the dragon breathing out flames and smoke, the
most awesome dragon that ever was seen; and there
too is the picture of St. Tryphonius taming the
terrible basilisk. The little boy-saint has folded
his hands together, and looks upward in prayer,
paying little heed to the evil glare of the basilisk,
who prances at his feet. A crowd of gaily dressed
courtiers stand whispering and watching behind the
marble steps, and here again in the background we
have the canals and bridges of Venice, the marble
palaces and gay carpets hung from out the windows.
Everything is of the very best of its kind, and
painted with the greatest care, even to the design
of the inlaid work on the marble steps.
As we pass from picture to picture, we wish we
had known this Carpaccio, for he must have been a
splendid teller of stories; and how he would have
made us shiver with his dragons and his basilisks,
and laugh over the antics of his little boys and girls,
his scarlet parrots and green lizards.
But although we cannot hear him tell his stories,
he still speaks through those wonderful old pictures
which you will some day see when you visit the
fairyland of Italy, and pay your court to Venice,
Queen of the Sea
As we look back upon the lives of the great painters
we can see how each one added some new knowledge
to the history of Art, and unfolded fresh beauties to
the eyes of the world. Very gradually all this was
done, as a bud slowly unfolds its petals until the full-
blown flower shows forth its perfect beauty. But here
and there among the painters we find a man who
stands apart from the rest, one who takes a new and
almost startling way of his own. He does not
gradually add new truths to the old ones, but makes
an entirely new scheme of his own. Such a man
was Giorgione, whose story we tell to-day.
It was at the same time as Leonardo da Vinci
was the talk of the Florentine world, that another
great genius was at work in Venice, setting his
mark high above all who had gone before. Giorgio
Barbarelli was born at Castel Franco, a small town
not far from Venice, and it was to the great city of the
sea that he was sent as soon as he was old enough,
there to be trained under the famous Bellini. He
was a handsome boy, tall and well-built, and with
such a royal bearing that his companions at once
gave him the name of Giorgione, or George the Great.
And, as so often happened in those days, the nick-
name clung to him, so that while his family name
is almost forgotten he is still known as Giorgione.
There was much of the poet nature about
Giorgione, and his love of music was intense. He
composed his own songs and sang them to his own
music upon the lute, and indeed it seemed as if
there were few things which this Great George
could not do. But it was his painting that was
most wonderful, for his painted men and women
seemed alive and real, and he caught the very spirit
of music in his pictures and there held it fast.
Giorgione early became known as a great artist,
and when he was quite a young man he was
employed by the city of Venice to fresco the outside
walls of the new German Exchange. Wind and
rain and the salt sea air have entirely ruined these
frescoes now, and there are but few of Giorgione's
pictures left to us, but that perhaps makes them all
the more precious in our eyes.
Even his drawings are rare, and the one you see
here is taken from a bigger sketch in the Uffizi
Gallery of Florence. It shows a man in Venetian
dress helping two women to mount one of the
niches of a marble palace in order to see some
passing show, and to be out of the way of the crowd.
There is a picture now in the Venice Academy
said to have been painted by Giorgione, which would
interest every boy and girl who loves old stories.
It tells the tale of an old Venetian legend, almost
forgotten now, but which used to be told with bated
breath, and was believed to be a matter of history.
The story is this:
On the 25th of February 1340 a terrible storm
began to rage around Venice, more terrible than
any that had ever been felt before. For three days
the wild winds swept her waters and shrieked around
her palaces, churning up the sea into great waves
and shaking the city to her very foundations.
Lightning and thunder never ceased, and the rain
poured down in a great sheet of grey water, until it
seemed as if a second flood had come to visit the
world. Slowly but surely the waters rose higher
and higher, and Venice sunk lower and lower, and
men said that unless the storm soon ceased the
city would be overwhelmed. No one ventured
out on the canals, and only an old fisherman who
happened to be in his boat was swept along by the
canal of San Marco, and managed with great difficulty
to reach the steps. Very thankful to be safe
on land he tied his boat securely, and sat down to
wait until the storm should cease. As he sat there
watching the lightning and hearing nothing but
the shriek of the tempest, some one touched his
shoulder and a stranger's voice sounded in his ear.
`Good fisherman,' it said, `wilt thou row me over
to San Giorgio Maggiore? I will pay thee well if
thou wilt go.'
The fisherman looked across the swirling waters
to where the tall bell-tower upon the distant island
could just be seen through the driving mist and rain.
`How is it possible to row across to San Giorgio?'
he asked. `My little boat could not live for five
minutes in those raging waters.'
But the stranger only insisted the more, and
besought him to do his best.
So, as the fisherman was a hardy old man and had
a bold, brave soul, he loosed the boat and set off in
all the storm. But, strangely enough, it was not half
so bad as he had feared, and before long the little
boat was moored safely by the steps of San Giorgio
Here the stranger left the boat, but bade the
fisherman wait his return.
Presently he came back, and with him came a
young man, tall and strong, bearing himself with a
`Row now to San Niccolo da Lido,' commanded
`How can I do that?' asked the fisherman in
great fear. For San Niccolo was far distant, and he
was rowing with but one oar, which is the custom
`Row boldly, for it shall be possible for thee, and
thou shalt be well paid,' replied the stranger calmly.
So, seeing it was the will of God, the fisherman
set out once more, and, as they went, the waters
spread themselves out smoothly before them, until
they reached the distant San Niccolo da Lido.
Here an old man with a white beard was awaiting
them, and when he too had entered the boat, the
fisherman was commanded to row out towards the
Now the tempest was raging more fiercely than
ever, and lo! across the wild waste of foaming
waters an enormous black galley came bearing down
upon them. So fast did it approach that it seemed
almost to fly upon the wings of the wind, and as it
came near the fisherman saw that it was manned by
fearful-looking black demons, and knew that they
were on their way to overwhelm the fair city of
But as the galley came near the little boat, the
three men stood upright, and with outstretched
arms made high above them the sign of the cross,
and commanded the demons to depart to the place
from whence they had come.
In an instant the sea became calm, and with a
horrible shriek the demons in their black galley
disappeared from view.
Then the three men ordered the fisherman to
return as he had come. So the old man was landed
at San Niccolo da Lido, the young knight at San
Giorgio Maggiore, and, last of all, the stranger
landed at San Marco.
Now when the fisherman found that his work was
done, he thought it was time that he should receive
his payment. For, although he had seen the great
miracle, he had no mind to forgo his proper fare.
`Thou art right,' said the stranger, when the
fisherman made his demand, `and thou shalt indeed
be well paid. Go now to the Doge and tell him all
thou hast seen; how Venice would have been
destroyed by the demons of the tempest, had it not
been for me and my two companions. I am St.
Mark, the protector of your city; the brave young
knight is St. George, and the old man whom we
took in last is St. Nicholas. Tell the Doge that I
bade him pay thee well for thy brave service.'
`But, and if I tell them this story, how will they
believe that I speak the truth?' asked the fisherman.
Then St. Mark took a ring off his finger, and
placed it in the fisherman's rough palm. `Thou
shalt show them this ring as a proof,' he said; `and
when they look in the treasury of San Marco, they
will find that it is missing from there.'
And when he had finished saying this, St. Mark
Then the next day, as early as possible, the fisherman
went to the Doge and told his marvellous tale
and showed the saint's ring. At first no one could
believe the wild story, but when they sent and
searched in St. Mark's treasury, lo! the ring was
missing. Then they knew that it must indeed have
been St. Mark who had appeared to the old fisherman,
and had saved their beloved city from destruction.
So a solemn thanksgiving service was sung in the
great church of San Marco, and the fisherman
received his due reward.
He was no longer obliged to work for his living,
but received a pension from the rulers of the city, so
that he lived in comfort all the rest of his days.
In the picture we see the great black galley
manned by the demons, sweeping down upon the
little boat, in which the three saints stand upright.
And not only are the demons on board their ship,
but some are riding on dolphins and curious-looking
fish, and the little boat is entirely surrounded by the
We do not know much about Giorgione's life,
but we do know that it was a short and sad one,
clouded over at the end by bitter sorrow. He had
loved a beautiful Venetian girl, and was just about
to marry her when a friend, whom he also loved,
carried her off and left him robbed of love and
friendship. Nothing could comfort him for his loss,
the light seemed to have faded from his life, and
soon life itself began to wane. A very little while
after and he closed his eyes upon all the beauty and
promise which had once filled his world. But
though we have so few of his pictures, those few
alone are enough to show that it was more than an
idle jest which made his companions give him the
nickname of George the Great.
We have seen how most of the great painters loved
to paint into their pictures those scenes which they
had known when they were boys, and which to the
end of their lives they remembered clearly and
vividly. A Giotto never forgets the look of his sheep
on the bare hillside of Vespignano, Fra Angelico
paints his heavenly pictures with the colours of
spring flowers found on the slopes of Fiesole, Perugino
delights in the wide spaciousness of the
Umbrian plains with the winding river and solitary
So when we come to the great Venetian painter
Titian we look first with interest to see in what
manner of a country he was born, and what were
the pictures which Nature mirrored in his mind
when he was still a boy.'
At the foot of the Alps, three days' journey from